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Roundtable Discussion on “Perceptions of India-China Relations”

C3S Event Report No: 007/2019

The following is the event report of a discussion on ‘Perceptions on India-China relations’ at C3S on 19th March 2019.The views expressed were the speaker’s own.

This discussion was led by a visitor Mr.Ram Etwareea who was visiting C3S from 4-28 March 2019 to learn and exchange views of India and China. Mr. Ram is a Mauritian national working at the Swiss daily Le Temps. The format of the discussion was roundtable.

Ambassador Ganapathi, IFS (Retd.), Former Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India; Member, C3S introduced the speaker.

Ambassador Ganapathi and Mr.K Subramanian, former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Government of India; Treasurer, C3S talked about the Mauritius economy, the culture of Mauritius. Ambassador Ganapathi who had served as Ambassador to Mauritius talked about the strong Indian culture which is present in Mauritius, the way Indian festivals such as Diwali and Ramzan are celebrated with syncretic vigour in the society. He also underlined various projects India had undertaken such as Coastal Surveillance Radar. He also explained the significance of these projects, capacity building and a more people centric approach in India’s relations with Mauritius.

Mr.Ram Etwareea spoke on Mauritius. He spoke about the Sugar industry, which is and has been very important to the Mauritius economy and underlined that Europe and USA gave a fixed price for buying of Sugar. This promoted and boosted production as there is clarity on the demand side. Raw sugar was exported from Mauritius and valued added was done in Europe. He also underlined that in Mauritius the speaker is elected by MPs and not directly elected and is not affiliated to any party. This mechanism brings in a certain level of neutrality to the parliamentary process. Ambassador Ganapathi pointed that Mauritius has a large Chinese population and they usually get about 2 seats in the Parliament. Ram brought out the point just like the revival of Hindu religion and in the same way there is a revival in the Muslim and the Chinese identity. He also spoke of the significant number of Christians who constitute 10% of Mauritius population.

Colonel Hariharan, VSM (Retd.), Retired Officer of Intelligence Corps, Government of India; Member, C3S spoke about Indians being used as an expeditionary force in Africa. A major portion of East African railways was done by Indians.Even the conquest of Burma and in colonial administration Indians were used.He further elaborated on the importance of academics studying about the contribution of Indians to these historical developments.

Mr.Ram Etwareea then went on to state his views on China and the common perception of the people in the west and in India about the hatred about China which exists. He also spoke about his mindset being of a developing country. Mr.Ram said he is a big fan of globalization and pointed out that there is a common phenomena to dismiss globalization and the irony in the way in which the same countries which benefited from globalization are the ones dismissing globalization. He further spoke of the experiences of studying in Bombay in the 1970s. By being an outside observer he also spoke of the phenomenal change that he could witness in India. He pointed to the way Mauritius has risen from per capita GDP of $400 in 1990’s to about $10000 in 2017. There was also mention of Ambassador Kishore Mahubani on his thoughts of the divide of North- South.

The conversation shifted to the way developed countries perceive themselves as being threatened by emerging countries eg: Trade war. However he underlined the way countries can cooperate and benefit from Globalization by pooling in resources and contributing to global growth in the most efficient manner. Moreover China is searching for markets throughout the world which is common for any rising power.There is also a win-win situation for everyone. China has excess capital and developing countries need investment.The modalities of how investment is used is the key in the way China will be judged. He pointed to the unfair way China was being treated in the West which treats any acquisition that China does as being debt trap. He brought about the fact that common thread in which India and China benefited from globalization such as market access, investments etc.

Mr. Ram Etwareea spoke of his interaction with Rahul Reddy, Research Officer, C3S on his research of the Chinese Railways and the way in which China have raised its Railways. China’s genuine desire to get Market Access abroad such as with BRI and the Maritime Silk Road. He concluded by saying that if both India and China can come together it can benefit from globalization and that is the way forward.

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Ambassador Ganapathi spoke of China not being hated but of being concerned. He spoke of the Globalization as being a problem for everybody. He also pointed out that there are also concerns on China’s investments in OBOR as a form of neocolonialism. He drew parallels of China’s investments in Mauritius. He concluded by saying that the way China has risen is an issue.

Mr. K Subramanian said globalization which was promoted by USA is also promoting de globalization. Trade is being cartelised. Global cooperation is needed to counter this and manage change. As far as China’s rise is concerned it has been a player in Africa. Even in 1950’s it was there. China has financed major revolutions in Africa. It was that goodwill that has made possible their investments in Africa. Contrary to public opinion,China’s investments had promoted local development. He also spoke of China’s unfair treatment on Debt diplomacy and the hypocrisy of global powers. Moreover, he explained Trade wars are not economic alone, it is a fight for an economic model, social model.

Colonel Hariharan spoke of the hatred of China. He drew parallels of the immigrants in Africa and the historical way in which Africans had reacted against immigrants. China does not integrate with other cultures unlike India. So he said unless China does not open up it will be very difficult to sustain momentum on their investments. China has always been a regulated bureaucracy whereas India has been an decentralised anarchy. China is trying to build a new world order. China is also becoming indispensable in certain areas such as Electronics and Telecommunications. The coming together of Trump and Xi Jinping is a thing to watch out for. The way in which WTO GSP instruments is used for geopolitical process.

Asma Masood, Research Officer, C3S spoke of What is the outrun by China’s investments. China uses investments in a way in which it does not benefit the local people unlike India where it focuses on capacity building.

Maya K., Research Officer, C3S asked a question as to how the Press in Mauritius reports about China? Ram replied that Mauritian press looks towards India.Overall Mauritius Press is vibrant. Ambassador Ganapathi said that the Mauritus press is very sensitive to China unlike for India. He gave the example of Jinfei issue.There is also a European bent of criticism when it comes to India.

Mr. Ram spoke of land being in the hands of Europeans. People of Indian origin are also doing very well but not in the way of Europeans. Chinese came as small shopkeepers to Mauritius.

Mr. K. Satyanarayan, Member of C3S spoke of the different systems that exist in China and other countries. The difficulty of implementing things in a democratic political system. There is need to build consensus in the society and development needs to be inclusive unlike in an autocratic system.

Anuja Guerele , Research officer,C3S asked whether this hatred towards China is generated by the Indian media. Most panelists agreed on the broad premise. With the rise of electronics media, there is a tendency towards hyperbole. Therefore emotions do get stirred up and there is a genuine need to not bring that into diplomacy.

The event concluded.

(Compiled by Aravindhan V, Research Officer C3S)

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